September 12: Back to School

I couldn’t stop staring at the elaborately made up blond across the room. All the white women in the room, except for me, were elaborately made up blonds (most did not come by this blondness naturally, judging by their roots), so it wasn’t for these reasons that she stood out. The reason my eyes strayed to her whenever I thought no one else was looking was because of her arms and her lips. She had beautiful arms–toned, with large biceps and forearms. I watched enviously as they bulged whenever she reached up to play with her hair (she did this almost constantly). Her lips were also large, full beyond belief. In profile, it was hard to tell which jutted out farther, her lips or her nose. When she faced forward, I’d search her face for other signs of tampering, quickly averting my eyes whenever she felt my gaze on her.

It was day two of a semester-long class I’d signed up for at Santa Monica College (SMC). After swearing I was done with school forever, here I was, right back in it, taking a class called “Social Media Marketing.” I was inspired to do this by a job I’d interviewed for that was seeking someone with a background in social media campaigns. I didn’t get the job, lacking a background in both social media and environmental activism, but it’d gotten me to think about the world of media beyond film and television.

Someone at SMC, in their infinite wisdom, had decided that it made sense to hold this class in Malibu (45 minutes from SMC’s main campus) in order to attract a “different demographic.” When we went around the class on the first day and said where in LA we were living, the only people from Malibu were a trio of middle-aged women and a blond couple who looked to be about my age and used a shiny red convertible as their mode of transportation (the dude looked like Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High). If the demographic they were hoping to attract was white people with money, mission accomplished. SMC is still working on building its Malibu campus, so this class was held at Webster Elementary. Something I hadn’t considered before I showed up for the first day of class was how this would affect the size of the room’s furniture. My thighs were mashed against the underside of the desk. Every time I shifted position, one of the table legs would leave the ground, causing everything on the desk to slide.

Our professor had the physique of someone who goes to the gym a lot and focuses on the big muscle groups. He’s an Italian dude with a full head of silver-gray hair, and a smile that says “I was popular in high school.” On the first day of class, he wore jeans and a red collared shirt with the under armour logo. On the second day of class, he wore jeans and a navy blue collared shirt with the under armour logo. By the second day, I was beginning to sense a pattern.

On the first day, he gave us his professional life story over the course of an hour and a half. He went to business school in Vegas after moving there to spend time with his mother who, supposedly, wasn’t long for this world and needed to live in a dry climate (my mind immediately jumped to tuberculosis, but I think I was probably off base). After school, he started a business with his brother selling carts to casinos that allowed people to walk around making change for customers. These cart were rendered obsolete in 2000 by more advanced technology. At this point, his mom had lived many years past her alleged expiration date, so he moved back to Ventura, CA, where he’s originally from. He worked in marketing for a news paper until the iPhone came out, at which point he’d seen the future. He quit and started selling software. His biggest sale (which he’s mentioned at least once each class) was to Cisco. With that money (somewhere in the millions), he started a business selling ergonomically tailored chairs to large companies.

On the second day of class, we went through a powerpoint and learned a little bit more about our professor’s wife. Apparently, her idea of a night out is going to Pier 1 Imports followed by Starbucks. Our discussion then turned to Facebook. The professor pulled up the following chart:

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I was sitting at my little desk, trying to figure out what it would look like for a social media platform to know you as well as a spouse, when I heard the professor ask if anyone had any questions. He stopped pacing and stared directly at me. I guess I looked like I had a question.

Me: “Uh, what does that even look like? Like Facebook knows you as well as a spouse?”

This launched him into a scenario where the two of us were married and his mother, my mother-in-law, wanted to know what to get me for Christmas. In this scenario, I loved going to Olive Garden, so he suggested a gift card to that illustrious establishment. I was momentarily distracted by the thought that I needed to find a husband who knew me better. The big takeaway was that Facebook would also know this info about my spending habits. So I guess his mom, my mother-in-law, could have saved herself time and asked Facebook instead. The professor concluded with the idea that after 500 likes, Facebook knows you better than you know yourself, which is more or less equivalent to knowing what you’re going to do before you do it. I was starting to feel like we were living in a Christopher Nolan movie.

Our discussion of Facebook and its relationship to us ended when the professor asked me what my name was. I said, “Ceri.” This, of course, autocorrected in his brain to “Siri,” and a gray haired woman a few rows down started talking about the voice in her iPhone. At this point, I turned back to my fellow classmates for entertainment. Sean Penn was watching a video of someone surfing, dimming his screen every time the professor paced to our end of the room. On the first day, I’d pegged him as a surfer because of his long blond hair and tanned, stringy physique, so I felt somewhat vindicated. The elaborately made up blond on the other side of the room was running her fingers over her impossibly large lips. Maybe they were new.

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